Hated on court, at home Devendorf's just dad

BY SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 16/04/2010
Eric Devendorf
KENT BLECHYNDEN/The Dominion Post
SINNER OR SAINT: American college basketball's bad boy Eric Devendorf wants a new start with the Wellington Saints after trouble in the United States and with the Waikato Pistons.

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Showing up for an interview with last year's most hated man in American college basketball, the first thing you expect to see is ... Eric Devendorf playing with his 22-month-old daughter?

But there he is, Wellington Saints' brash new signing, hoping to start afresh after another twist in his brief, but colourful career.

Devendorf is never far from the headlines and he made a startling NBL debut for the Waikato Pistons last month, racking up a franchise record 49 points against the Nelson Giants.

But things turned sour, and Devendorf was released by the Pistons after an incident in a Napier bar last Friday night, where he was detained by police after a loss to Hawke's Bay.

Waikato boss John Davey said the incident had nothing to do with his release, and Devendorf said it was blown out of proportion.

"There was no arrests made, no charges or anything like that. There was a little incident, my friend from back home, [Hawke's Bay import] Josh Pace, went to Syracuse with me so I was just looking out for him. It just kind of got out of hand but it's not a big deal. I'm here, I'm healthy and ready to play."

The 22-year-old combo guard has replaced Darryl Hudson on the Saints roster, with Hudson subsequently picked up by the lowly Manawatu Jets.

Devendorf said Saints coach Pero Cameron had given him simple instructions ahead of tonight's meeting with the Christchurch Cougars at the TSB Bank Arena. "He said he wants me to come in and do what I do best, which is scoring the ball."

Devendorf promises to be fun to watch.

Trash talking, emotional, heart-on-his-sleeve; Devendorf endeared himself to Syracuse University fans during a turbulent college career, but precious few others.

"Growing up back home I used to play with older guys and whether they try to rough you up or talk trash and make you feel bad about yourself, it's a part of the game for me.

"I love the game and this is how I make my money and take care of my family so I've gotta go hard with it."

Devendorf's family is girlfriend of five years Fatriyah and their daughter Madelyn. Fatriyah is expecting another daughter in August and Devendorf said the New Zealand adventure marked the first time out of the United States for all of them.

"I just love having my family out here with me. The transition coming to a different country is pretty tough but not a lot of people get the chance to come over to a different country and get paid for playing basketball. It's just a blessing and a great opportunity."

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Devendorf hopes to use the NBL as a bridge to leagues in Europe, Australia or the NBA.

He worked out for most of the NBA teams ahead of last year's draft but was overlooked. Devendorf believes his chances were stymied because of a 2008 incident where he was suspended for allegedly striking a female Syracuse student in the jaw with an open hand.

"It definitely did, because a lot of teams were asking my agent about that. This is kind of a start-over for me and I'll try to take this league as a stepping stone and try to make the most of it and go on to bigger and better things."

HOW THEY LINE UP

What: NBL basketball
Where: TSB Bank Arena
When: 7 o'clock tonight

Saints: Lindsay Tait, Troy McLean, Erron Maxey, Leon Henry, Nick Horvath, Eric Devendorf, Casey Frank, Damien Ekenasio, George Le'afa, Ross Taurima, Randall Bishop.

Christchurch: Jeremy Kench, Paora Winitana, Mark Morrison, Trent Wurtz, Tim Behrendorff, Dan Peck, Adrian Taylor, Aidan Daly, Lionel Hopgood, Sam Crozier, Carew Elers.

- The Dominion Post

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